While the 2008 draft is largely remembered for Melbourne’s choice between Jack Watts or Nic Natianui – its effects on this year’s events stretch significantly further.
Due to the evening out of the competition this season, the players of one particular draft are looking to all bloom in the same window of time.
The Class of 2008 need to come of age now, if they haven’t already. The gaps have shrunk across the board. Now is the time to assert supremacy.
The ladder is no longer as divided as it used to be. Middle rung sides are pushing those in the top 4 and those who were once cast down the bottom are pushing the middle rung. It’s on for young and old.
Especially for the young in this case. They’ve been in the system for 4 years now. Four pre-seasons under the belt, some held back by injury and by form, now is their time to shine and play a role.
Any draft is put into three different categories; the Brightly Shining Stars, those who are ‘Going Stale’, and those who were absolute steals or ‘Wildcard Winners’.
BRIGHTLY SHINING STARS (Taken in Top 15)
Jack Ziebell, Steele Sidebottom, Hamish Hartlett, Daniel Rich and Stephen Hill are all fixed within their respective sides’ midfields.
With injuries decimating Collingwood, Sidebottom’s role at the contests and clearances are now key for the Pies’ tilt towards September.
Sidebottom has proven in the clinches he can stand up, and with the absence of Luke Ball and Andrew Krakouer; he must not only have influence within the middle, but go forward and kick goals.
Ziebell and Hill must have break-out years. Ziebell is critical to North’s clearances and contested ball battle in the middle, while Hill generates massive run for the Dockers. They are both seen as massive assests.
With injuries and inconsistency holding them back previously, they are now showing genuine signs after their initial promise.
Chris Yarran has been an absolute joy to watch. David King comes to mind as the Blues star breaks lines and takes on opponents without a care in the world. He has been one of the main drivers of Carlton’s revival.
People can celebrate the class of Chris Judd, Marc Murphy, Bryce Gibbs, Kade Simpson, Andrew Carrazzo, Heath Scotland but their attacks behind the ball have been the catalyst for most of Carlton’s scoring.
Tyrone Vickery is the one most Richmond supporters have thrust their hopes upon.
In the last couple of games last season, he showed positive signs with his marking and positioning. Sadly, such qualities have been almost non-existentso far this season.
The lack of presence and intensity is evident in key forwards that are yet to establish themselves and it has even plagued the development of Micheal Hurley and Liam Jones.
Hurley’s injury woes have been near legendary at this point in time, stifling in what could be the best centre-half-forward since Jonathan Brown’s to date.
Great hands, intent on the ball and pace off the mark, will not only see him accumulate scoring shots but push up the ground and rack up scoring assists. As he looks great either up the ground or playing deep, he is Essendon’s key building block in their tilt towards a flag.
Liam Jones needs to have more immediate impact on the Western Bulldogs’ forward line. With a lack of direction and average performances by their smaller forwards, he must stamp his authority on the game and demand the ball.
Key position forwards don’t bloom quickly, but Jones must start having a bigger output to help the Dogs get back into finals contention and help them avoid a poor season.
Now for the steals of the 2008 draft. There are many of them. All the way down to pick 75 in which the Hawks took talented winger Shane Savage.
His inclusion with the likes of Liam Shiels (taken at pick 34), has seen the Hawks have a rebirth of sorts after a poor 2009 and an average 2010.
Rory Sloane at Pick 44 is absurd. A naturally talented midfielder and a breath of fresh air to the Crows midfield, adding another bow of class and outside pace.
You could go on for ages:
– Daniel Hannebury (Pick 30) – Swans now a Top 4 chance with the likes of him and Luke Parker adding pace to a workman, blue-collar side.
– Luke Shuey (Pick 18) – Out and out gun. Have the Eagles midfield back to the class and hardness of their days on top circa 05/06. Critical for premiership tilt.
– Ryan Schoenmakers (Pick 16) – Needs to stand up in a depleted and vulnerable Hawks defence in order to make premiership tilt. Needs to keep a cool head in pressure situations.
– Zac Clarke (Pick 37) – Talented pick up to help the Dockers get through the season without the injury-prone Sandilands.
– Mitch Robinson (Pick 40) Carlton’s hardened hero, contested ball magnet.
Many have touted 2001 as the ‘Superdraft’ to be the draft that subsequent ones are measured.
In five years and maybe even earlier, the Class of 2008 will be this measuring tool. But in a more immediate window of time, an accelerated course and graduation mid-season will bring a welcome kickstart to sides in a hotly contested season.